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Telia gambles on ex-Telenor exec as new CEO

Telia Company has named Patrik Hofbauer as its new president and chief executive, starting next year.

Mary Lennighan

October 16, 2023

3 Min Read

Telia Company has named Patrik Hofbauer as its new president and chief executive, starting next year.

Hofbauer has extensive telecoms experience, having spent 11 years in top jobs at Telenor, including serving as CEO of Telenor Sweden. He is currently chief exec of Swedish state-owned gambling company Svenska Spel.

When he takes office on 1 February, Hofbauer will replace Allison Kirkby, who takes office as the new BT Group CEO in the new year. To date, Kirkby has spent over three and a half years at the helm of Telia, a period characterised by significant asset sales and – as with many of Telia’s telecoms peers – a drive for digital transformation.

When former CEO Johan Dennelind announced his resignation in 2019 he noted that, following extensive change under his leadership – including the end of the TeliaSonera brand and the sale of the company’s Eurasian operations in the wake of a headline-hitting corruption scandal – “Telia Company is now entering a new phase with several opportunities for value-creation.” And Kirkby certainly didn’t hold back on that score, selling off towers assets and most recently its operating unit in Denmark.

Kirkby also pushed hard on digital transformation, moving towards simplification and greater agility, as evidenced by last year’s announcement on workforce upskilling via an AWS in-house training programme, amongst other things.

Doubtless Kirkby believes she has left Telia in the right position to move forward. The group’s most recent full-year financial report came with US$2 billion worth of writedowns as a result of the economic situation – Telia has a lot of debt still – but its most recently quarterlies showed a solid telecoms business, but continued weakness at its TV and media operations. That could well be an area of focus for the new boss.

As it stands, comments from Hofbauer and Telia board chairman Lars-Johan Jarnheimer suggest we’re looking at more of the same, strategy-wise, from the new CEO. But it’s never wise to bet against telcos repositioning themselves in some way to try to keep up with market developments.

“While I have most recently been working outside telecoms, I have followed recent industry developments with great interest, and I am ready to continue executing on Telia’s strategy and move forward with its digital transformation program,” Hofbauer said.

“Telia has shown good progress in its digital transformation and is continuing to execute on its strategy to deliver value for all of its stakeholders,” said Jarnheimer. “The Board and I are convinced that Patrik is the right person to continue leading this work as President and CEO, together with Telia’s experienced executive management team and dedicated colleagues across the organization.”

Whatever Hofbauer’s intentions for Telia, we’re unlikely to see any major change in the near future, given that he’s not due to take office for another three-plus months. Telia’s annual results for 2023 are due to be published in late January though, which could give us a clue as to what the new leader’s tenure might look like.


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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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